The First installment of “The Hunger Games” series wasn’t very good. It wasn’t terrible by any means but it wasn’t fantastic either. Now it’s three movies later and the franchise has really hit its stride with “Mockingjay Part 1”. “ Still, some feel that it, as the first part adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s novel of the same name, it is only half a film. Many of the other critics have been supporting this claim. This may be some of the cause for the fact that “Mockingjay’s opening weekend – while still the highest for the year- was lower than expectations and lower than what “Catching Fire” did last year. The year wait between “Part 1” and “Part 2” might be another issue. It’s riding on the success of Warner Brothers splitting “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” into two movies but Lionsgate should have copied them on having a shorter wait time between films as well. “Part 1” was released on November 19, 2010 and “Part 2” followed nine months later on July 15, 2011. “Hunger Games’ fans have a year to wait to see what happens to Katniss and the rest. Which is frustrating because the wait may be adding fuel to the fire that “Mockingjay Part 1” is only half a film and therefore some how lesser than it is. This is unfair because “Mockingjay” is a whole movie and a wonderful one at that. It’s a fine adaptation and having it be in movie form allows the viewer to get outside Katniss’ head a bit – something that hurts the novel somewhat. Viewers get to see more of what’s happening around her and that’s one of the best parts about “Mockingjay”. “Hunger Games” the film version may have watered down the book to the point of being somewhat pointless (especially that last third of the film) but “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” both don’t shy away from the horrors of Katniss’ story.
One other great part of “Mockingjay” is that is has a fine assortment of actors. There are tons of Oscar winners and nominees – we’re looking at you Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP), Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and Julianne Moore- and other notable actors such as Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci. Notice should also be given to Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Also don’t not forget “Game of Thrones” and “The Tudors’” Natalie Dormer ,Sam Claflin and even Diana Ross’ son Evan Ross. This awesome cast does not disappoint. Everyone is on his or her game and all help tell the story. It’s hard not to feel for Gale as he tells Katniss that “It’ll pass,” in regards to her feeling about him, Peeta as he’s being tortured by the Capital or even what happens to the adult characters. Elizabeth Banks provides the comic relief but even she adds a tragic complexity to a character who’s not even suppose to be in the movie. Sutherland still oozes evil on screen – as he should. He was made for this role.
One thing about “Mockingjay” that is better than the other two films is the cinematography. This a beautifully shot film. For example, during Jennifer Lawrence’s haunting song “The Hanging Tree”, there’s this “Schindler’s List” like shot of people from one of the Districts joining in her song and banding together to fight the Capital. They’re marching in formation with gray overtones and this vintage feel to it all like we’ve seen this before in a not too distant past that’s simply amazing. The mise-en-scène or “placing on stage” is a mix of tight and wide shots, light and dark, and the past mixed in with the futuristic. It’s very cool. The music is great as well. It’s scored by James Newton Howard. Go listen to Jennifer Lawrence’s “The Hanging Tree”. It will stay with you for days.
“Mockingjay” is crafted more like a “serious” film then the third movie in a blockbuster franchise. Blockbusters are fine but what’s great is that “Mockingjay’ (and “Catching Fire” to some extent) has something to say (about politics, about the media, and about war) and isn’t afraid to say it – weekend gross be damned. Do go see the film, it’s a great addition to the series.